This past year saw Herculean achievements in set design, sound design, costume design, prop-heavy novelties, and large-cast spectacles. But none of them topped the simply staged Side Effects and the emotional, comedic, and dramatic magic it created with two people, a single set, and a narrative that explores mental illness in a modern marriage with profound insight. Universally, it was a play about the difficulty and fragility of relationships; specifically, it was about bipolar disorder and politics and the effect both have on human connection and disconnection. Playwright Michael Weller is one of the most talented writers in the country, and he couldn't have asked for a better director than Richard Jay Simon, who guided Deborah L. Sherman to the best performance of her career and Jim Ballard to one of three solid performances in his banner 2011 year. When everything comes together this well, a show like Side Effects raises the standards for every production around it.